Democratic lawmakers target transparency in Kansas

TOPEKA (CAPITOL BUREAU) – In an effort to make the Kansas Capitol more accessible, Democratic lawmakers unveiled a package of bills targeting transparency.

“We have the ability to make government work better and more open for the people of Kansas,” explained Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley.

On Tuesday, Kansas democrats gathered in the old secretary of state’s office to introduce 16 bills.

“That’s why I’m proposing a bill that would end secret votes in committee and on the house floor,” said State Rep. Brett Parker of Overland Park.

Aside from ending secret votes, the package of bills includes:

  • Ending “gut and go”practices
  • Allowing death records of a child in the custody of DCF to be made a public record
  • Two bills changing how police body camera video is released

“The Dominique White shooting that happened in the 57th district made it very clear we have an issue with transparency,” said Topeka State Representative John Alcala.

Police shot and killed White in September; the body camera video from the incident was released in December. Alcala explained this bill allows body camera video to be released immediately after an incident.

“The reason we spend those tax dollars on body cams, and those audios, is so it can be viewed and it can be viewed immediately at a reasonable cost, not at an outrageous cost that no one can afford,” he said.

“There is a natural tension between wide open transparency and concerns about privacy,” explained House Majority Leader Don Hineman.

Hineman said while he’ll needs to review the specifics in each bill, the bills will receive consideration in committees.

“I think there is wide spread agreement to the extent that we can improve the legislative process and shine more light on how things happen here,” said Hineman.

Some of the bills put forward also address lobby practices and prohibiting the influence of state or local contracts.

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